He fully demonstrated that he is the alt-President.
I have seen, covered as a reporter or helped plan as a political media advisor and public affairs consultant hundreds of press conferences in my life, but as I watched Trump’s performance yesterday my jaw just kept dropping. This was the real Trump and there is no unseeing it.
A return to the TelePrompTer for his next performance doesn’t change what we all saw yesterday as he was flanked not just by a few Cabinet members but by his golden elevators in the lobby of Trump Tower.
Anchors on news networks from MSNBC to Fox were dumb-founded. Trump’s new chief-of-staff watched the news conference from the sidelines by looking mostly at the floor, his arms crossed, his body language clear. Senators, congressman, corporate leaders and others, Republicans and Democrats, put out statements distancing themselves from him.
The only support I saw in the media came from David Duke, the one-time grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and attendee of Saturday’s protest in Charlottesville, who thanked the President for his comments. Repeat, a lifetime self-proclaimed bigot supported the President of the United States' comments.
I was head of communications at the Republican National Committee 30 years ago when the decision was made by then-Chairman the late Lee Atwater and President Bush 41 to ostracize Duke who was in his prime then and talking as if he were a Republican. That did not stand with President Bush or Atwater.
Trump yesterday gave Duke a chance at a second prime.
I don’t want to overstate this, and I don’t think I am, but as a Jew, for the first time in my life, I felt threatened in my own country. I communicated with a friend who is not white yesterday and said both our peoples should be very scared. I live in a pristine little town and the alt-right protests aren’t likely to reach me but we also live about an hour from Boston where similar protests are being rumored this weekend.
These Sieg Heil-saluting racists don't even wear their hoods anymore, proud to be seen and identified as bigots.
And, I realized that also for the first time in my life, the President of the United States does not have my back.
Some say Cabinet members and Trump staff should resign after witnessing his rant yesterday. Maybe. But I worry about who he would choose to replace those people. While David Duke has no chance of being confirmed by the Senate, there is no confirmation necessary for the White House staff.
As Trump settles further into the comfort of his base’s arms, and he is attacked by nearly everyone else in public life, his base instincts tell me he’d think, “What the hell” and appoint the David Dukes of the world to key positions.
An overreach? After yesterday’s press conference, I don’t think so.